There are many digital financial products on the market; some of them excel, while others lack demand and have to fight for their survival. What determines whether a product succeeds or fails? And how can one be sure that the millions invested in building
such a product won't go to waste? Particular aspects seem to dictate the product’s faith. All of them are related to proper financial design integration into all levels of the company. Unfortunately, most often, these factors go unnoticed, ignored or are ruled
insignificant, leading to a painful fiasco. How can you spot those threats before it's too late and keep your product safe from failure?
There's a common mistake many financial institutions and companies make. You might feel like everything is under control and going smoothly─the team is working, building the product, you have the technological support and financing... what can go wrong?
A lot can go wrong, big time.
In many cases, incorrect design integration in the process of product creation has led to harmful consequences. The product lacks demand in the market, gets rejected by the users, exceeds the development budget or doesn't even get launched at all.
This remains a huge risk for any company that doesn't integrate user-centered thinking at all levels, starting from the inner culture and ending with all processes and operations.
But what does that even mean, and how can you achieve that? We want to share our approach that has helped different financial institutions and companies develop successful and well-demanded digital products.
Proper financial design integration: the key to success
At this point, it's crucial to understand what I mean by “design.” Instead of the common misconception that design is simply beautiful packaging for marketing purposes, I view it as an ideology behind the process of integrating user-centered thinking into
the company core─from production processes to the way people on the team think and act.
To create a successful financial product, it is crucial to pay close attention to several key aspects simultaneously:
- The complexity of finance technology;
- Requirements of the digital products' market;
- The role that finance plays in each person’s life.
I call this financial design. We believe this concept is critical to the success of any digital financial product. Here's why.
Working closely with different financial institutions and following the events in the industry for more than a decade, I discovered that it’s not always possible to realize the full potential of specific companies and their digital products.
After analyzing dozens of cases, asking hundreds of questions and extracting huge amounts of data, I uncovered five possible areas in which financial products get sabotaged. All of these are closely related to the way in which the design process is integrated
into the product and company.
In general, these five areas match the main elements of business development. When you have a solid business idea, you need to create a business model by defining key Processes that will take you to the desired goal. In the next step, you need a Team of
specialists who are qualified to execute your idea. When you have found professionals who match the previously defined processes, you need them to conduct the right Actions that move you closer to the product realization. To be sure you are moving in
the right direction, you have to evaluate the Results your team is producing. In the end, if all of the previous steps have been accomplished successfully, you can grasp the unique Value your product will provide to the customers, turning you
into a success story.
Only 2.5% of companies complete their projects 100% successfully, according to a PwC study of over 10,640 projects. The Design Pyramid helps to detect “bottlenecks” in designing the new product before it is too late.
Meet the Pyramid of Financial Design Integration
On the way to creating a digital financial service, any company can face pitfalls that can shake even the most experienced businesses. If you ignore these hazards and fail to detect them on time, the product may be rejected by users and lose its market advantage.
The issue often arises because project owners have several blind spots. Tricky obstacles tend to appear that they don't even notice until it's too late. Usually, this results in failure of the financial product, leaving the management team confused because
they can't find any rational explanation for its demise.
Pyramid of Financial Design Integration consists of five levels: Process, Team, Action, Results and Value. Each of them, if not carried ut correctly, can lead to a certain threat to a financial product's success.
First Level: Process
What is the role of design in the company processes and inner culture? Is it prioritized? A business that's powered by digital products cannot be limited to only a couple of designers who create landing pages and build interfaces from public templates.
Test yourself: How do you perceive design in your team?
- How do managers and employees in your organization value the design process?
- How much do they appreciate and are aware of financial design capabilities and the role of design in shaping the product's future success?
The inability to prioritize design leads to a deficiency of resources necessary to fulfill its true potential. This causes low-quality design of digital products as the process is messy and chaotic. In the end, this kind of approach dramatically increases
the risk of product failure as the user needs and expectations have not been taken into account.
Learning to prioritize design allows you to develop a user-centered understanding throughout the entire team, leading to smooth and effective project workflow. This results in a successful and satisfactory product for the users.
User-centered thinking must be made a priority on the widest scale possible─throughout all levels, teams and processes in a company. This way, every employee can focus on satisfying the user's needs through designing products or services. Such an approach
allows the creation of truly innovative products that have long-term success in the digital market.
Second Level: Team
When we know how the design and user centricity should be incorporated into the company processes, we need to select the right people who can actualize that. What should their competencies and experience be? How will they integrate the design?
The people responsible for design might be: the Chief Experience Officer, who defines the company's strategy for user satisfaction; Head of Design, who is responsible for the implementation of design at the product level; UX Architect, whose task is to design
digital solutions based on the business goals and user needs; UI Designer, who embodies the vision of the team in the user interface.
Test yourself: Who is responsible for design in your organization?
- What are the competencies, backgrounds and mindsets of people who execute the product design process in your organization?
This could be compared to asking a dentist why your arm hurts because he is a doctor.
Superficially selected specialists can easily sink the project, regardless of how large and impressive the budget is.
Here's an example. I remember a Fintech startup that wanted us to completely redesign a product launched only a few months ago. Traction was awful with an almost zero retention rate despite a high acquisition rate. From the first sight, the app looked fairly
appealing and modern. Customers were interested in the brand-new solution and were eager to try it. Unfortunately, key user flows were so complex and full of friction that users weren't able to complete even the simplest tasks. The main cause of this fiasco
is obvious. They had hired an agency that was experienced in designing attractive landing pages and eCommerce sites but knew nothing about financial services. They wasted half a year and plenty of investors’ money, missed market opportunity, damaged their
reputation and lost customer loyalty.
To empower the design potential of a company, outsourced design competence can be used through consultants, agencies and coaches. This will not only help to create great products from the user perspective but also provide an opportunity to enhance the company's
culture and expand internal expertise.
Third Level: Actions
Now, we are moving to the next level. At this point, it's crucial to understand that even if you hire the most brilliant team of UX design specialists, your product can still fail. Why?
Simply put, the designers’ skills, experience and domain knowledge are useless if their influence is limited only to the tasks concerning the “topcoat” of the product.
Test yourself: What actions do designers execute in your company?
- What are the designer’s tasks, goals and zone of influence?
- To what extent are they able to engage the entire company in caring for the success of the product?
Unfortunately, this approach underlies the many boring and uncomfortable digital solutions that currently dominate the financial industry.
The results of each scenario are drastically different─from a complete failure to a unique product that's greatly demanded. I'm sure it's not difficult for you to sort out which is which.
Ideally, service design specialists should become design approach facilitators at every level of the company. In addition to the routine duties of product engineering, their primary goal should be to integrate the user-centered design approach into every
process that's related to product creation and customer service.
This could be done through:
- agile-based processes
- lean UX practice
- Design Thinking integration.
Ultimately, the number of benefits that the product can offer users and the speed of its realization depends on the scale of actions and the vision of the design advocates on the team. This can be facilitated to a large extent if one or more of the C-level
executives are passionate about increasing the products’ and company’s value through a user experience design approach.
Fourth Level: Results
The success of the product depends on the criteria that are used to evaluate the results of the design team's efforts.
Test yourself: How do you measure the quality of result?
- What are the measuring criteria of the end result?
- Are you fully aware of the value of the designer's input and each design deliverable?
In the end, this turns into an extremely expensive and time-consuming way to market a useless product. Sounds absurd, right?
The correct outcome criteria define the level of value a product is able to provide for the users. It's not the number of screens that is important, it is the quality of the screens. Often, a clever and user-centered architecture of a digital product can
significantly reduce the number of screens, while increasing user satisfaction.
Only the compliance of the product with the key user scenarios can make it more understandable and enjoyable for the customers. Naturally, it requires the investment of more time and resources into analysis and research. Therefore, it is very important that
this process is carried out by experienced specialists.
It is also equally important that every single employee in the company is 100% aware of the design approach significance for the success of the product.
Fifth Level: Value
Though all of these five milestones on the way to a meaningful product are equally relevant and closely related to one other, we have come to probably the most important one.
The central question in the creation of any product is “WHY?”
What exactly makes the product valuable and unique to the users, and how does it matter to the team involved in its creation? Difficulties arise if the project team does not know the answer to this question, or if this answer is standardized and does not
inspire anyone, most importantly themselves.
Test yourself: What's the unique value of your product?
- Does your team own a disruptive mindset?
- Are they trying to think outside of the box to design unique value for the customers?
At the level of value, the design approach allows you to find the particular uniqueness your product is able to provide to the world─something that will definitely distinguish the solution from the many others already offered by competitors. There's no other
way to find and detect this uniqueness than for the whole team to step out of the box. This way, the product can reach a level of innovation, maximizing its value.
Viewing a product from the perspective of user benefits allows you to set priorities aimed at creating long-term relationships with clients within a win-win framework.
Have the courage to challenge yourself instead of protecting your legacy. A design approach will guide you through the necessary methods and tools. This way, the company's employees won't be wasting their energy on protecting the market share of an unsuccessful product
but, rather, focus on designing a solution that exceeds user expectations, guarantees customer loyalty and leads to an organic increase in popularity without spending enormous marketing budgets. We are living in the Digital Age, and the network effect of social
media has more influence than billboards ever did.
Successive implementation is key
For this instrument to be used to its full advantage, it is crucial to understand that all of these aspects are interconnected and affecting one another and must be viewed as a system. If you're confident in most of them but don't succeed in mastering one
of them, there's a big possibility of failure.
It is pointless to talk about the uniqueness of your product if the design is not made a top priority in your organization. If the entire team perceives the design only as a whim─merely a decoration on the facade when the building has already been constructed,
it is impossible to create a product that will delight its users.
Compare it to caring about your health. If you do not integrate a healthy lifestyle into every aspect of your life─from eating, moving and thinking, doctors cannot help.
Create your own “magic-pill”
The best way to implement this model is to carefully study each of the levels and involve the whole organization into the design integration.
While going through the stages of the Design Pyramid, keep in mind your own unique situation. What might prevent you from creating a demand for your financial product? Seek ways to improve in-house processes with the help of financial design.
Remember, there's no “magic pill” that will miraculously solve all of your problems. Your own engagement is the key. Knowledge, tips and experience from this article, combined with you striving toward understanding the root of the problem and implementing
the most effective solutions, will bring the optimal results